There is much hullabaloo being started in the ‘Atheist/Secular Community’ about some alleged improprieties of the financial and/or ethical sort that have recently emerged. I won’t bore you with the details, but if you are so inclined you can read about them here, here, and here.
To be clear, I am not taking a position as to the whether the accusations are true or false. I am trying to be objective and let the process play out before making a judgement on that score. What bothers me almost more is not that these alleged misdeeds occurred, although if these did happen they are certainly bad enough within themselves, but the reactions these potential ‘scandals’ have elicited.
To paraphrase ‘Casablanca’, people seem absolutely shocked, SHOCKED, to learn this sort of thing could happen in our community! After all, aren’t we supposed to be above the fray, looking down from our twin ivory towers of reason and skepticism upon the corrupt hoi polloi that slither on their bellies below us?
The answer is an unqualified and emphatic ‘NO’! The problem is the assumption that just because we are atheists and /or freethinkers, we are somehow immune from human foibles and weaknesseses. This, of course, is absurd. We are all just evolved apes trying out best to figure out what is going on in this universe. We still have the same predilections for lying, stealing, and cheating as do the religious folks some of us like to mock. The inverse is also true : We have the capacity to be noble, kind, and generous to our fellow humans.
So, then, we should not be surprised that in a movement where we have deeds that portray the best of humanity, we also might have acts that show us at our absolute worst.
Thus, it is disturbing to learn that some would call for the dismantling of the community completely. However, the fact is that ALL human communities, of whatever size or complexion, are going to have these problems crop up from time to time, because of the fact that these are HUMAN communities, and thus embody all those traits, good and bad, noble and base, to which our species is prone.
The solution, therefore, is not to tear down the structures that have been built and that have helped so many, but to strive to improve ourselves, the members of that community. And while it may seem easier to ‘burn it all down’, to raze and rebuild, we must realize that no matter how strong the structure, it will ultimately fall if there isn’t a strong foundation. We should strive to build each other up, and not tear each other down. It is in this way that we will prove our worth to our fellow travelers, regardless of affiliation or belief.